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  • David A.F. Sweet

The Old College Try: LFHS, Students Work Together to Improve Odds of College-Admissions Success

After the joy of spring break, many Lake Forest High School seniors will face the biggest decisions of their young lives. May 1 is known as Decision Day across the country. Those who have gotten into a number of colleges via the regular-application process – which is much more common than early decision or early action -- must choose a school to be their home for the next four years. Fortunately, more than ever, LFHS has equipped its students with the opportunity to shine during the college-admission process – and the students themselves are performing better than ever on entrance exams and are taking a record number of Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Consider: -- Over the past decade, the number of LFHS students taking AP classes has almost doubled. According to The Princeton Review, college-admissions officers are impressed when students challenge themselves academically with these tough courses. -- In the past few years, LFHS started the ASK the Experts college admission panel, where college representatives answer families’ questions. The school also introduced Scout Destinations, a quarterly newsletter to update students and parents on the ever-changing college landscape. Financial Aid/FAFSA presentations are now available for senior and junior parents. --LFHS was named one of the best high schools in America by U.S. News & World Report in 2019. Two factors assessed in the survey is the college readiness of students and college curriculum breadth.

-- LFHS students achieved the highest composite ACT score in school history in 2020, with a mark of 28.

Dr. Patrick Sassen, Lake Forest High School Director of Educational Services, takes pride in the continuous improvements his department unleashes that help students end up at their No. 1 college choice.

“We know the process can be really challenging for students and families, but students work very hard to find schools that will be a great fit for them,” he said.

According to Dr. Sassen, the college search process begins for most early in their junior year, starting with junior seminar and a junior parent program in October. Counselors discuss the factors that colleges consider in making admission decisions (grades, test scores, essays, extracurricular activities and more) as well as factors that students should utilize to find schools that are a proper fit (location, cost of attendance, major, study abroad, size of school and the like).

It’s almost a cliché to say no year has been more challenging than the past 12 months, and certainly LFHS has needed to pivot on its typical college process amid the pandemic. Counselors were available to meet with their seniors in small groups and individually to answer any questions or concerns they had during the application process. Counselors also created several step-by-step videos that outlined details related to college applications. Visits from college admission representatives were handled virtually, while students’ visits to colleges were handled the same way.

Though a large number of LFHS students always stay in the Midwest, with Illinois the favorite state, California is also popular. For the Class of 2020, Ohio was a hot spot, second only to Illinois, with 40 students matriculating primarily at Miami University and the University of Dayton. Among top-ranked private schools, 11 chose to attend Northwestern University, five headed to the University of Southern California and three ventured off to Princeton University.Nearly 90 percent of LFHS graduates enroll in a four-year college, while others attend the College of Lake County (CLC), join the military or choose a gap year.

As Decision Day beckons, Dr. Sassen knows there will be much to celebrate. Says he, “Each year we hear from many students who are thrilled to be admitted to their top-choice schools. These are great celebrations for all involved…students, parents, counselors, teachers and others.”

This is one in a series of pieces on Lake Forest High School that will run until the end of the school year.


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